Tapestry 2010 – Finding Synesthesia

Posted June 7th, 2010 by layla
Tapestry 2010 @ The Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA

On Saturday, May 22nd, I went to dinner with a friend at a beloved Turkish restaurant in Arlington named Pasha. After dinner, with our bellies full, and the night still feeling rather young, my friend and I decided to be adventurous and walk around little, to see if there was anything neat to do in the area. With the help of GPS and Google Maps (what fearless adventurers we were!), we stumbled upon what we thought, at first, would be a movie theatre. It was off the main road on a side street, and we figured that by the looks of it, they would probably only have one screen. Boy, were we in for a surprise… Upon walking into the lobby, we found a crowd of people socializing, and quickly realized that it wasn’t a movie theatre at all! It was an actual theatre, the kind with a stage!

We found out that the main show of the night was a tap performance, in honor of International Tap Dance Day, and that we had arrived during the intermission. The box office was closed, but a nice lady helped us to find a man who worked there, and he told us that they’d be happy to sell us tickets for the second half! The normal admission was $25 per seat, but he was very kind and only charged us $10 each. :) We had 3rd row seats on the left side of the stage (these seats were apparently reserved and never claimed), and it was a great view to watch the performance from! Neither my friend nor I had seen a live tap performance before, so it was an exciting event to have stumbled upon.

It was a really neat show! It turned out that the group was sort of an experimental jazz group, with a vocalist, pianist, cellist, and with the tap dancer serving primarily as percussion, rather than as a visual experience for the audience. In fact, the audience was encouraged to close their eyes during the performance, to see how that affected their perception of the music, and the role of the tap performer in being a part of the music.

So, once again, we were surprised, because we bought tickets expecting to see a tap performance, and we quickly found that we were there primarily (though not exclusively) to hear one! It was very, very different, and neat!

The tap dancer, Heather Cornell, had several different pairs of tap shoes, each made from different materials, and intended for different purposes. She even had one custom made pair, which had four different materials, between the the two shoes – this allowed her to achieve different sounds not only by the way she performed her tapping actions, but by the parts of each shoe that she tapped with, giving her a greater range of expression. She also varied the surfaces/materials that she tapped on. One area seemed to resemble sand paper, while another was wood, etc. It was not at all what I had expected to see in a tap performance – it was delightfully different! Also, having taken beginner tap myself, it was very easy to appreciate her skill – it’s difficult enough to tap dance… using tap as a more general musical instrument has really got to be an immense challenge!

The Moroccan vocalist, Malika Zarra, had a very unique voice and vocal style – she didn’t really sing lyrics so much as use her voice as yet another instrument, and during the rare times when she did sing actual lyrics, they seemed to mostly be in Arabic. Her voice alternated between mesmerizing and emotionally piercing, and occasionally managed to impart both seemingly contradictory feelings at the same time. So already, two pieces of the ensemble, the tap dancer, and the vocalist, were being involved in atypical manners.

We quickly learned that the pianist, Andy Milne, wasn’t about to be typical either – he used various things, not all of which I could quite discern, to augment the way that his piano played it’s music. For one, he seemed to use a kind of brush against the strings at times, when he wanted to create more dark and eerie sounds. I think he also put some kind of cushion between the hammers and the strings at other points in time, to mellow out the impact of the keys he was playing.

Last but most certainly not least, was the cellist, Dana Leong. He was playing a cello which was entirely missing it’s wooden box! It was only the frame, and the strings! At first, I was a little bit confused by how it was able to actually produce music. Then I quickly realized that there were wires attached to it, and that he was using his feet to manipulate a computer, controlling the synthesizer being used by this electric cello! At the very bottom of this post, you’ll find a picture of one of his CDs, which I purchased after the performance. I am absolutely in love with his music, and I have been playing the CD to death ever since! You can also click the small play button to hear a preview of one of my favorite songs from the CD. I’ve also provided links to his website, and to ways to purchase his music, because I just can’t speak highly enough of it! I felt that all of the performers were amazing, but I only had enough old-fashioned cash left to buy one of their CDs, and I was most impressed by his solos on the electric cello (one was even reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar rendition of the Star Spangled Banner), so his music was my first choice.

Overall, it was a really pleasant surprise, and a very fun night! Synesthesia is a great show to just feel, with your eyes closed, fun as it is to watch the details of how they’re augmenting the musical experience with your eyes open. I recommend that if you ever have the chance to see any of these performers (or the whole group) live, you shouldn’t hesitate one bit! The Regent Theatre is also a very neat establishment, and now that I know it exists, I plan to see more shows there in the future… It’s very nice to stumble upon small independent venues of the arts, and this one is especially neat, since I had thought small theatres like this had all but died off. I’m wholeheartedly glad to see that they haven’t!

Dana Leong

Buy the album at:
CDBABY or iTunes
or Amazon US or Amazon Japan

– PT 2 STORM WARNING [13:19]

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